Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 5


Defend and Conquer.

55 mile Mountainous point to point Road Stage.

Today would be a big big day for us 4 RPC riders, we had not only the Team GC lead to defend but also 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th on Overall Classification. This stage could prove decisive and could see some huge time loses due to the fact it contained two long hard climbs early on in the stage, then 2 long exposed sections of dual carriage way and finally a punchy 500 meter climb to the finish line. We had a rough game plan and knew what we needed to do in order to hold our positions.

This was all good and well but once again I was not in good shape, although this time I really wasn't. I'm not sure if it was something that I ate last night but the whole evening was spent not far from the loo and this morning was pretty much the same. I was in two minds about even starting the race but as stage start approached I decided I would at least give it a go and see how i faired, for the team if nothing else. As we grouped up at the start, Adrian was presented with the Leaders yellow jersey, a proud moment for both Adrian and the team.

Finally we started a stage in the sunshine and as we progressed through the 7 mile neutralized zone I realised I was way too over dressed, off came the arm warmers and down came the zip on the gilet. The flag soon dropped and the race began, with only a few miles before we hit the climb all of the top riders were keen to get near the front, I was feeling ok up to now so I also headed up towards the head of the race. The climb began and the pace at the front was dialling in to one speed; Fast! After 500 meters of climbing, half of the field had already been gapped. I was finding the pace hard going and dangling off the back of the lead group. The rest of the team were up there and looking good ready to defend Adrian's yellow jersey.

Stage 5_1

The climb went on and on with more riders pinging off the back in to no mans land. I was just about hanging on but as we approached the summit, the riders at the front of the group shifted in to another gear and upped the pace considerably, I can only assume this was because of the riders who were sprinting for the King of the Mountains points. Unfortunately I didn't have this extra gear and I began to loose contact, It was only when I passed our road side supports with there very own RPC banner that I was informed we were at the top. This spurred me on to sprint back to the group but just as I did I was hit with the headwind and I was going nowhere. As the leaders began to pull away, I settled in to a small group of bunch fodder that began to try and chase back on, As some of our rivals for the Team GC were in this group I decided to leave them to work and so I just sat on and waited to see what would happen.

As we descended the first climb we did eventually make contact with the front group and it was at this point that I decided to remove my gilet and hand it to the official in the car following the group. As i did we hit another rise and the group began to pull away, this forced me to chase hard to get back on, which i did, but just at the same time we hit the start of the second climb. This was not good and as the pace once again put me in the red I decided the best thing i could do was to let them them go and ride my own pace otherwise i would be dead on my feet with a long way to go until the finish.

Just as before I ended up in a small group of riders, all of which had also been put in to difficulty with the pace at the front of the leading bunch. We rode a steady though and off and just kept plugging away hoping we might get back on. Up in the lead group, The other 3; Adrian, Tony and Mike were defending well and chasing every move that was being made, sprinting after both small and large attacks and nullifying them as they were being made. The boys really were doing the team proud, I only wish I could have been in the position to help but at the moment with my physical issues it’s just not going to happen, thankfully though they are proving to be strong enough without me.

Stage 5_3

Back in the second group on the road we had just started the main descent off of the second climb, this was a proper descent, just like what you get on real mountains. I was following second wheel but decided that the guys leading us down didn't know too much about descending fast, I decided to take up the reins and show them the way. I engaged the 53x12, tucked in low to the bike and threw it round the various hairpin corners, over taking a few cars and chasing a couple of motorbikes whilst I was at it. At the bottom on the descent there was a really nasty left hand corner which everyone hit way too fast, I locked up the rear and drifted round that bad boy and thankfully everyone else stayed upright as well. We were now about to begin the first of two really long, boring stretches of dual carridge way and as luck would have it we were joined by another group of riders who had been chasing us since the top of the second climb. This was really good news because now we had a nice group of about 12 rather than 6, this would make the dual carridge way sections much more bearable.

We all worked really well for the next 60 minutes or so and survived both of the 8 mile stints on the dual carridge ways. We had a nice chaingang going but a few times i did have to shout some orders about. I kind of took it on myself to be the instigator of the group, maybe because i was best placed on GC at the time who knows but it kept the group working well and everyone was pretty happy about it. I had to tell two riders to stop going through so fast because they were creating gaps which was counter-productive to our cause, I also had to tell another rider to sit on the back and don't do any turns because he was just slowing us down. Cycling is know for its strange make-up and how rivals can become companions to each other when they are in a break away, this was evident today when I done an “on the fly trade” with a rider from another team who had ran out of fluid. I traded my remaining bottle for a gel which saved him from dehydration and bagged me some more caffeine injected syrup. Bargin!

Stage 5_4

7 minutes up the road and back up with the lead group which was about 45 riders big, 2 riders broke clear from the bunch on the last dual carridge way section. These riders were no threat to the Adrian's yellow jersey so they decided not to chase. These riders managed to just about stay clear of the field and contested the sprint after cresting the final 500 meter sting in the tail. It would be Simon Ernest of the “Lost MTBers” team who would take the win with ex-race leader Gly Griffiths of Urban Cyclery in second. Ade, Tony and Mike all finished in the group and rode up the final climb at a stead pace as they had tomorrows stage in there minds and wanted as little of todays stage in there legs.

And so, back to my group who were now tackling the last stretch of road towards the finish. Everyone was pretty drained both physically and mentally after the hills and dual carridge ways and as we hit the final climb we the group splintered but i was strong enough to crest the climb in 3rd and claim back another spot before the line. I finished in 54th position on the stage and a mammoth 7.09 minutes back on the stage winners time. However, I may have lost a big chunk of time but we were still the second group to finish and there were a lot of groups still minutes behind and some riders lost as much as 35 minutes on todays stage!

Stage 5_5

So with the stage over and the results in, this is how it stands in the rankings; I have now dropped from 7th all the way to 50th on GC, bad times but not much I can do about it. As a team we are still leading the Team Classification by 3 minutes 13 seconds which is great and Adrian still holds on to the yellow jersey with Tony sitting nicely in second overall. The best development after todays stage however is the fact that Mike has now moved up to 3rd position on GC!!! This means that RPC/Subzero not only lead the team GC but also hold 1st, 2nd and 3rd (and 50th!!!!) in the overall classification. Its so crazy its like the race has been fixed!! its fair to say the RPC are dominating the RAS.

So at first we thought that today would be a big day but now it looks like tomorrow will be a huge day for us. If we can maintain all of our current positions and I can pull something out of the hat to move back up in the GC, RPC will walk away with an immense result. However, there is one hell of a parcours that stands in our way; A 50 mile point to point race which finished at the summit of 6km long climb! I am hoping that I will have some good fortune and actually be able to climb as well as I should be able to but i don't think realistically I will be in that kind of shape, but you never know. I suppose we will find out soon enough. Watch this space.

Ras de Cymru Stage 3 & 4


BANG, SMASH, CRASH!!!!! This was how stage 3 of the Ras started and this was all in the neutralized zone! With the weather looking grim once again and it already spitting with rain, the stage began with 3 miles of neutralized and with in that 3 miles there was absolute chaos as a rider punctured and went down in the middle of the bunch. As the riders around him reacted to the crash, a few riders swung out in to the opposite lane, at the same time a Motorcycle outrider was coming past the group and the rider collided with the motorcycle which flung him and his bike back in to the bunch which the caused another series of crashes. Thankfully none of our team were involved and after a bit of extended neutralized so as the race would regroup, soon the actual race was underway.

Stage 3 AdeStage 3 mikeStage 3 Tony

I had been feeling bad for a few days but this morning it was a whole new level for me, I felt terrible. The legs wouldn't work and my lungs were tighter than a play girls corset!! This was bad new because stage 3 was a 60 mile Road Race which consisted of 3 laps of a circuit which contained a very steep, punchy climb which kicked again as it crested the top. For the first lap I was sat towards the back as usual dreading what was to come, the rest of the team were up towards the front ready for action. This is very frustrating for me because all I want to do is be up there helping the squad but with the situation I’m in at the minute I just cant, hopefully next year things will be different.

Anyway, the time is now and and soon enough we hit the climb for the first time, I went straight to the back of the font group giving it everything to hang on, Tony and Ade were looking good at the front, Mike was at the back with me but i think this is because he had a mechanical. I got gapped slightly at the top but I managed to get back to the leaders on the descent. The second time we hit the climb it was pretty much the same situation with me getting gapped and then managing to claw my way back to the group. I was feeling it at this point and was not looking forward to the third and final time up the ascent.

Stage 3

As we approached the climb for the final time I tried to make my way up towards the font so as to allow myself some slipping room on the climb. I was climbing with the main group and not feeling to bad but as we crested the top our very own Adrian Bird attacked and the group accelerated over the top. Although i was feeling ok a few riders up ahead let the wheels go which meant that all of us behind had now lost contact as well. We formed up in to a group which then set to Ade Stage 3work in order to get back to the main field. I was just tapping through and not doing much work because i had no need as RPC still had 3 riders in the main filed. Eventually the group i was in did make contact with the leaders and it was then that i was informed that Adrian was still up the road.

The last few miles were all on draggy dual carridge ways with a nasty head wind, Adrian held a gap of about 15-20 seconds on the group with another rider out in front about the same distance ahead of Adrian. The bunch were speeding along and eventually they scooped Arian up but undeterred by this, Ade kept drilling it on the front all the way to the line. We all finished up in the main group and none of us lost time on GC which was pleasing. I think most people were just happy to get through the stage given the crashes that took place in the early stages. It was clearly a tough stage because there were a umber of riders which finished outside of the time limit but even so, these were allowed to continue on due to the fact that stage 2 was cancelled.

Stage 4 – The Team Time Trial, 11.8 Miles

We have all seen it in the Tour de France and other big stage races and know how crucial they can be to the overall standings, a Bad TTT can ruin the chances of even the strongest GC contender. This would be the first time that we had ridden a TTT as a team and apart from a little practise the other week after a race, we had done no specific training. However, we knew we were all descent testers and knew that this would be our chance to to make a statement on the GC and hopefully put some of our riders up there in the top 10 in the overall standings.

aero helmetIt would be an interesting stage for every team having ridden a hard 60 mile stage in the morning. We were off 3rd out of all the teams which meant that we had a short recovery period compared to the teams that were off much later in the day. After a 45 minute warm up trying to get the legs working again we headed off to the start ready for action. We had decided to take the Team Sky approach to this stage and considered the impact of marginal gains as we all decided to tape the vents in our helmets in order to help us achieve the best time possible.

We lined up on the start and realised that we had to self push for this TT where as in usual time trial you are held by the starter so you can get clipped in and set straight off. As we set off the inevitable happened and I couldn't get clipped in to my pedal, This lead to some panic which made things worst but thanks to Adrian's push I managed to get clipped in and we were off. Tony took the first pull with me in second, I was immediately put in the red trying to keep with Tony and then i had to come through and do my turn! The TT course was on a single carriage main road which was pretty much dead straight with a roundabout at one end which acted as the half way turn. The way out was super fast as we had a tail and wind and it was downhill, We all worked really well as a team and employed perfect communication in order to keep us all together. Tony and Adrian were putting in some big pulls and me and mike were giving it everything we had. We hit the roundabout and headed back up toward to the finish, this was now the really hard part as it was all in to a savage headwind and the last mile and a half was up a real beast of a drag, it wasn't steep but it was enough to cause big problems and see some massive time losses.


Up to the point where we hit the drag I was managing to put in some good pulls despite not feeling particularly great but as soon as we hit the drag I blew to pieces and I had to sit on the back of the train and let the others do the work. I was in so much pain; spitting and screaming my way to the line and I was beyond relieved when we had finally crossed it. The last few miles we had ridden in the rain and at the same time the had wind picked up, We were pretty sure that we had some of the worst weather as it seemed to brighten up in time for the later started. We had no idea how we had done until the results were printed on the evening but we though that given the bad conditions during our ride we had still done enough to get about 5th or so.


Hitting the big Time!

As we headed down to the sports hall after dinner to get the results we were shocked at what we saw. We had absolutely smashed the TTT and won by so much time that they had to use the time adjustments in order to keep us from getting too much of a time advantage over the rest of the field, this is the first time they have ever had to do this in the history of the Ras which just shows how hard we had ridden. We were now also leading the Team GC by over 3 minutes which was fantastic for us. But the best new was that Adrian was now leading the GC and was in the leaders yellow jersey, Tony was in 2nd place overall, Mike was in 4th and I was in 7th!!!! All 4 of us were now in the top 10 and sitting pretty.

ResultsThis was the best result we could have hoped for and now we are in the position to win both the Team GC and also the Individual Rider GC. The next 2 stages will be all about defending the lead and keeping ourselves up there in the top spots. Bring it on!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ras de Cymru Stage 2

Brecon Beacons
59.8 mile Rolling Road Stage
3 KOM primes, 3 Sprint Primes.

After what can only be described as a hot nights sleep, the team awoke to what looked like a fairly decent day. With breakfast being served between 7 and 8 we hot tailed it down to the Fecky for some pre race grub. Just like dinner we were treated to a big selection of cereals, toast, cooked breakfast, pastries and much more. However, knowing how bad we all felt after last nights pig out, we all took caution as to how much we piled on our trays, we all basically stuck to one bowl of cereal, except for Adrian who had 2!, a Couple of slices of toast and a few cups of coffee. With breakfast done we headed back to the dorms to pack our race bags and headed off north bound towards the Brecon beacons which is where todays race would take place.

It was around an hours journey from the Uni to the race HQ and after leaving Newport in the rain we arrived at Brecon Ruby club under sunny skies. After the race briefing we set off to complete the 5 mile neutralized zone before the races begun proper. It has to be said that this was the most dangerous neutralized zone I have ever ridden, what the driver of the official car was playing at I had no idea but he kept speeding up forcing the bunch to chase him and then slamming on his brakes which caused chaos in the bunch, along with a ton of road furniture this made for a sketchy experience. With the rain now also beginning to fall, many riders including myself had a few scary moments.

As the flag dropped at the start of the race, the paced expectedly picked up pretty quickly and it was at this point that I realised I was pretty far back in the bunch. With 101 riders all jockeying for position, moving up was not an easy task. Thankfully I managed to get some what near the front as we approached the main climb. It was at this point that two things happened; Firstly i realised that I was feeling really quite bad, my lungs felt constricted and my legs wouldn't work. As soon as we hit a small rise I would have to ride at such a high level of perceived exertion it felt like I was attacking! I guess I am going through a “bad patch” at the minute with my medical issues and when these happen it really effects my riding. Thankfully I have now received good news as to when I should be getting treatment started so in a few months time hopefully things will be different.

Stage 2 Adrian

The second, more concerning event that took place as we hit the hill was the weather, or more specifically how the weather decided to turn against us. I think the gods may have decided that bike racing isn't hard enough so they chose to test our willingness and our courage all in one fell swoop. And so began the worst down pour I have ever had the misfortune to witness, let lone race in! At first it was just unbelievably heavy rain that fell from the skies, this caused the bunch to fracture as riders began to struggle for vision. Next came the worst part, the hail!!! It was like something from a movie, it was coming down that hard and that fast that it was causing many riders to bleed from there exposed skin. I took to effing and blinding as I made my way down the descent which I would say helped, although others may not agree! It was not long after this point that the race was called to a halt just before the start of the second lap, as we all bunched together and tried to work out what was going on, the rain eased off and the sun came out! The commissaries decided to resume the race with a neutralized section before getting on to the bigger roads but as soon as we got going we were faced with flooded lanes and debris.

At the top of the next climb we were once again order to stop and pull in behind the lead cars. It was at this point that the race officials very fairly and understandably deemed the race to unsafe due to standing water and Stage 2 was officially cancelled. Bummer. Having said that, they only ever call the race off ifthey really need to. At the end of the day they want us to race as much as we want to race, they have put in months of planning and given up there free time to help organize and run the event so the last thing they want to do is call it off. This means that cancelling a race is a very last resort and I think its fair to say that it was the right decision, someone could have been very seriously injured had we continued to race.

So after making our way back to the HQ we loaded up and decided to recce tomorrows road stage, the afternoon TT and the finish of stage 5 so we knew what we would be facing. Its looks as though it could be an interesting and tough few days ahead, even with out the added weather effects. Keep tabs as there will be plenty more action coming up in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru 5 Day Stage Race
Newport University, Newport, South Wales

Wednesday 27th June – Sunday 31st June

Its been 6 months since we first decided as a new team that we would make the Ras de Cyrmu our main goal as a squad for the 2012 season and after hearing only a few weeks ago that our entries had been accepted, the time has now come for our assault on the UK’s only 5 day amateur stage race. Everything so far this season has been pretty much ridden and raced with this event in mind and its no lie that we hope to do very well here and cement our stake in the ground as one of the best amateur teams in the UK.

With all of us looking to be in our best possible form for this race, we have taken the last week or two nice and steady, or tried to at least! and apart from the TT I did on Sunday I have been trying to keep my legs fresh in the hope I would come in to this race in the best shape I could. Tony and Myseelf headed down to the race in his car on the morning of the first stage and arrived at Newport University Campus at just gone 11 in order to sign on for the event and also attend the compulsory safety briefing, First though we had to get the keys to our “digs”. The Ras is a combination of hard work by both British Cycling and Newport University, together they put on what can only be described as a mini Tour de France, it really quite brilliant.

We managed to enter the event early so we had the option of booking the on campus accommodation, this means that all four of us who would be racing; me, Tony, Mike and Adrian, would all be sharing an apartment, each with our own en-suite rooms and a communal kitchen. I missed out on the whole Uni thing so this is the first time I have stayed in the typical campus dorms and on first impressions they seem to be pretty good, small yes but hey have all the necessities; fridge, internet, bathroom, complementary biscuit's you name it.
Once all of us had unloaded and got ourselves sorted it was off to the briefing where after we had been given the low down on the rules and all the usual safety stuff,we were treated to a lunch buffet at the back of the hall. Its this kind of thing that makes it so great, how they manage to put it all on for what is actually a pretty cheap entry I have no idea but i love it. Lunch done it was off to sign on and get our race number and then back to the rooms to pin up and get ready for the first stage!

Day 1, Stage 1 – Prologue, 4.7 miles

As with most half descent stage races, the event begun with a lung busting, leg searing, heart crushing short distance TT in order to establish a race order and seed all the rider in there own position with there own overall time. Now although I am a pretty handy tester when I have good legs, I am suited only to the longer distance TT’s, 25’s and 50’s are my thing, anything short and I just lack the raw power that the bigger guys can call up IMAG0141on to help them achieve a good time. So with a sub 5 mile TT awaiting us I was not looking forward to it, worst still was the fact it finished on a 1km climb to the finish, something that should suit me but not at the end of this kind of distance.

Heading out to the start I wanted to get a good solid warm up under my belt so I rode Tempo for about 30 minutes and then threw in a few hard efforts to open up the lungs. With the first rider off at 15.16, our team was off pretty early as we were numbers 9 through to 12. Tony was off first with his 100mm deep rear wheel and taped up helmet for the aero advantage, mike was off second also with a taped up helmet, I was off 3rd and Adrian was off 4th.
The course was pretty flat and draggy all the way up to the turning where you were faced with a 180 degree turn off of the main road and straight on to a 10% gradient, The turn was horrible and the climb was a nasty little sting in the tail. As I began my ride I tried to hold back knowing that there was the climb at the end which could see some huge time losses, yet when ever I get going I always panic that I'm going too easy and push harder on the pedals. Its soon became apparent that although I thought I was holding something back I really wasn't as I found myself needing to recover on the smallest of downhill's. I approached the lethal turn and changed down in to the small ring before the corner and, as riders get penalised with a 10 second penalty if they cross any white lines on the road, I cautiously turned in way to early and began to drift very wide on the exit. I came so close to crossing the line that I had to slam the brakes on, come to a track stand, hop the front wheel round and then get going again all in an effort to stay on my side of the road. This standing start along with legs that were already blown to pieces made for a very painful climb.

Adrian 1Dan 4Mike 1Tony 1

I threw the bars from side to side in an effort to help my weary legs turn the pedals over, The finish line couldn't have come sooner. When I did complete the course, although I had crossed the line the hill kept going and I could barely turn the pedals. I could have done with my team helper come running up to me and push me onwards from behind! Every one found the hill hard work and quite a few riders were penalised for crossing the lines but pretty much everyone got round unscathed. Upon seeing the results this is where we lie after stage 1;

Adrian 9th with a time of 11.35 and 17 seconds down on the leader. Tony was 19th with 11.44 and 26 seconds down, Mike 23rd with 11.48 at 30 seconds and rubbish old me in 40th with 12.10 and 50 seconds down. In the team standing we seem to have done really well and are currently lying in second only 32 seconds down. The good news is that the team that are leading the team GC are mainly testers so once we hit the hills we should be able to move our selves up in to the top spot.

Dinner Time.
With the racing done and the showers tested, we headed off for dinner which is all included in the entry fee as is the breakfast. We didn't really know what to expect, a bit of pasta maybe, a dribble of sauce? oh no, It was enough food to feed a village!! Our trays couldn't hold the amount of plates we had; A bowl of salad, soup, bread, pasta with chicken and tomato sauce, vegetables, Jacket Potatoes and finally a bowl of rice pudding. After 40 minutes of plugging away we all finished and sat here holding our stomachs, struggling to move, we were crazy full. What breakfast will be Like I have no idea. Eventually we shifted ourselves to the bar where we had a quiz to take part in but I think we did pretty bad.

So now its off to the “digs to get some rest in before the 60 mile road stage tomorrow, lets see if we can nab that top spot on the Team GC!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Testing Testing 1 2 3

Hinkley CRC 25 Mile Time Trial
24 June 2012
Promoted and Organized by Hinckley CRC

What’s this Time Trialling thing??!!
When I began cycling I enterted straight in to the quantifiable world of Time Trialling, or Testing as its more commonley know amoungst those who are in the know. Testing was all I did and all I ever wnated to do, I didnt even know what this whole road racing thing was and more to the point I didnt care. I liked the fact that Testing was a simple process of training a single energy system to its fullets extent and then going to a race and doindf exactly the same as what you have been doing in your workouts. No messing aroung, no tactics, no negative racing, no 4th cats shouting "Hup, Hup" from the back of the bunch when some attackes! Nope, the race against the clock was pure and I liked that.

The Hinkley CRC Challenge Weekend was one of the events that I raced back in those first few years of cycling when I was a junior. The event is a well know and well organised event in the West Midlands Area and consists of a 10 mile TT of the Saturday and a 25 on the Sunday. The times of both races are added together and the rider with the lowest overall time is declared the weekends champion. I won the Junior category at that time and this was one of my first notable wins in my quest to be a pro.

Fast forwarding to the present day and the last 2 years and I have barely competed in a Time Trial. Nowadays I am a pure road racing thorough bread through and through. Although I still have the ability to put in a good solo TT effort and a lot of my best RR results have come from long steady state breakaway which require a good “Testing” ability, I just haven't really bothered to or had time to ride in any TT’s. The ones I did were at the start of the year before the main road racing season got under way and even then I did them on my Road Bike! All the while my TT bike has lay dormant in the garage, prepped, primed and ready for action but just never call up on.

Hinkely MapSo, this weekend in June, a barely summers June, would be a land mark, a monument in cycling history when I, Dan Bill put the race wheels back in to the “Time Machine” and give it a good old thrashing!!! The Hinkley 25 mile TT would be the event and location and the race!

With a typical early morning start, I loaded the car struggling to remember how I get this contraption with the sticky out bars in to the back of it and headed off the race HQ. I got there nice and early with about an hour and a fifteen minutes before my start so I could relax and chill for a while. However, Upon arrival to the HQ I realised there could be a very bad situation at hand! Because I was just after 9.00am I was set to get ready for my warm up at about 8.30am, the HQ was in a pub car park and the only toilets were in the Pub. The early hour meant the landlords were not up which in turn meant there were no toilets! Bad news. To cut a long story short, after much faffing around I gad to go “O’ Natural” in the nearest bush! good old “Testing”.

After a Trubofied warm up and a quick Gel to replace some glycogen I headed of to the start and only then did I realise how windy it was…….very! With a nice headwind down the start straight I got straight in to my new and improved, DaveyZ style aero tuck and looked to maintain a smooth cadence and not get bogged down in the gear. The new position was the result of a bit of fiddling that I did over the last week or so, It seemed like a much better position but the problem was I didn't have time to train in it and today would be the first time I would ride in that position for an hour let alone at race pace. This made for an uncomfortable ride in the gentleman department but I wasn't the only one who found there perch and bit on the uncomfortable side.

I had no real goals for the race other than to give it my usual 110% and to also maintain my aero tuck as strictly as possible for as much of the race as I could. With a tail wind all the way to the second turn I concentrated on keeping my arms close and relaxed on the extensions, my head low and looking ahead and my shoulders squeezed in as sustainably close as I could. Although it took a lot of effort to do it, I think I managed to hold it like that for 95% of the race and I truly believe it helped a lot on the headwind sections.

With one of the two laps gone almost completed, I tuned off the dual carriageway headwind section and back on to the start straight. As it has been a while since i have ridden this course I was unsure where the finish was, originally I through it was on the start straight but in actual fact it was back along the second straight. I was watching the clock as I crossed the line to complete lap one and knew that if i was going to be up there in the results I would have to get under the hour. I started the second lap with 32 minutes gone, I knew I would have to up my game I was going to crack the 60 min mark.

I had passed my 1, 2, 4 and 4 minute men by this stage and hadn't been passed by any one else so in the absence of my power meter this was my gauge to how well I was going. I felt good and the position was not killing me. Withy the last few miles ahead of me I upped the pace just enough to time my physical explosion just right as I hit the finish line and a time of 58.59. Bonus, cracked the hour and beat my last course PB by 6 minutes, Ok I was only 17 at the time but a new PB is still a new PB!

Back at the HQ, the bike was loaded in the car, the recovery was downed and the compression tights were on………..What???!!!! I have the Ras de Cymru on Wednesday, Its all about the recovery you know! Observing the results board, TT mega man Matt Clinton recorded a time of 55.09 to take the win which he added to his win in the 10 mile event yesterday making him the clear overall winner. I ended up 9th which I was really pleased with as I was beaten by some really good pure testers and only riders who set of on markers (Marks are when you start with a race number ending in a 5 or a 0, It signifies that you are a likely contender for the top places). The event its self was a great one and was perfectly marshalled and organised. In fact it was so good it relighted my passion for Testing and now I can wait to do a few more!

1 Matt Clinton, Mike Vaughan Cycles 00:55:07
2 Tejvan Pettinger, Sri Chinmoy CT 00:55:39
3 Andrew Green, Lutterworth CC RT 00:56:42
4 Martin Garner, MG Decor Team Carbon Bikes 00:57:11
5 Geoff Platts, MG Decor Team Carbon Bikes 00:57:27
6 David Kiernan, Rugby RCC 00:57:37
7 Rob Weare, Leamington C & AC 00:58:18  
8 Adam Tansey, Keep The Beat Cycling 00:58:39
9 Dan Bill, Rapid Performance Coaching 00:58:57
10 David Warren, Keep The Beat Cycling 00:58:58

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Just like the pros do it!

Mike Rutty Memorial Road Race, 03/06/2012
2 hrs, 2 whole hours it took me to get to this race! This is the longest I have had to drive myself to a race ever! Pretty good run though and thankfully the race started at the more gentlemanly time of 10.15 rather than the standard 9.30 start. This race just about made it through my race qualification criteria, the main rule of which is that I will not enter races which take longer to travel to than it takes to complete the race itself! Unless of course #I am riding there or its a very important or extremely awesome event. This race was one of the shortest road races I have done since my 3rd cat days, at a distance of only 56 miles this would take about 2.15 – 2.30 hrs to complete depending on the nature of the course.

I didn't really recognise any names on the start sheet due to being out side of my usual West Midlands stomping ground, although there was one name, Mark Corbett, a talented rider from Worcester who I have raced with many times in the past. At least I will have one friendly face to approach in the bunch. The course itself was 7 laps from the gun of a pretty tight and narrow road circuit with what seemed like more downhill than uphill! how that works I'm not really sure but that's how it was. To make matters worse, the finish was after a big long open descent which meant that the sprint would open up at about 40 mph!!!! I really should have put on the 23-11.
As with pretty much all of the races I have attended in the last 2 years, this one was organised with the same precision and skill as we have all come top expect and was all thanks to the effort of VC Bristol. The HQ was spot on as it was located at the local Football Ground so we were all treated to a riders briefing i the Club house complete with fully functional Bar!!!! Although this wasn't actually on for todays event. Riders a generally nervous and edgy before a race as it is but matters were made worse when a rider somehow came a cropper in the car park and he was so badly injured that an ambulance had to be called. This unforeseen event along with the grim looking sky which was sporadically producing rain and making for a very greasy circuit made us all just a little bit on edge than normal.

After a it of a delayed start due to waiting for the ambulance to come and go, we rolled out the HQ and pretty much straight in to the race. Straight away the race lined out and as I started at the back I really found it hard to move up through the bunch in to a good position, then when I did I couldn't stay there for very long before being swamped by rider from all directions. This is one of the only course I have raced on that has no double white lines anywhere on the entire circuit, this meant that rider felt it was ok to dive in to blind corners on the wrong side of the road and sprint round the bunch in the opposite lane whilst riding over blind crests. Soon the inevitable happened and the British Cycling commissarie called a halt to the race as we turned on to a quite part of the course. For the next 10 minutes we all got a pretty big bollocking due to our outrageously dangerous riding but this also made for a great chance for a natural break! We were given strict order that for the remainder of the race we would not be allowed on the opposite side of the road not matter what and if we did then we would be given an automatic fine of £10.00. I for one was fine by this and really didn't want a fine so I religiously stayed on the left hand side of the road. This made moving up though the bunch even harder but so be it. It didn't take long though for other riders to turn a blind eye to the rules and start hammering down the right hand side of the bunch on the right hand side of the road. Why??? Oh well, there the ones who will be sending a check to to British Cycling in a few days.

As the race developed it was clear that a break was not going to get clear very easy and every move was shut down very rapidly. from the start of the race i noticed that my rear wheel was being very noisy and it seemed to get worse as the race wore on. It was with 4 laps to go that I began to have technical problems as my cassette had worked itself loose and now began to lock up the freewheel. Not good. I had no choice to but pull to the side of the road, raise my hand and wait for neutral service, this would be the first time I have ever had to do this. As the bunch disappeared in to the distance, the service car came speeding to stop just in front of me. I whipped out the rear wheel as the driver rushed out shouting “What is it, What is it”, “Shimano 10 speed” I replied. With in a few seconds he had threw my wheel in the car, grabbed a worn looking spare and slammed it in to my bike. “Have you had service before” he asked me, “nope” I replied. “Right, ok then, when we get going sit behind the car and I will take you up to the first car in the behind the race. Just trust me and we will get you back on”, “Righty’o, got ya” I said back in an amazingly clam tone, much more calmly than I thought I would have ever have been in this situation.

Video of the cahse back to the bunch

Off he ran back to the driver door as I mounted my revised steed and off we went in pursuit of the bunch, Just like the pros do it! Now I have never done motor pacing before but I was pretty happy to get in as close to the car as possible, the problem was I couldn't bloody get there! Every so often I managed to tuck right in behind it but then the driver would speed up and I would loose some ground, this meant that for 80% of the chase I was out of the sweetspot of the draft and having to work super hard to keep up. This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but after a good 20 minutes of chasing we approached the bunch just before a sharp turn which lead on to a climb. I was told to move around the cars and get on the back of the bunch but as I hit the climb I had nothing in my legs to close the gap and soon the race was disappearing from me again. I kept chasing hard but was loosing ground so once again my buddy in the service car jumped back in front of me and this time I was determined to stick to the bumper. So for the next 10 minutes or so, me and the driver formed an silent bond as he kept me in his ear view mirror and helped me back in to the race. Finally we approached the back of the bunch and as I seized my chance to jump on to the tail end of the race, I gave my buddy a thumbs up as a way of showing my gratitude for his help.

So now I was back in the race but the race had happened as I was off the back! A break had gone clear which contained 7 string riders, they were always in sight but with only a few miles to go before the chequered flag the gap was never breached and this group went on the contest the win with Jason Flooks, riding for the organising club, took the win in his home race. My friendly face, Mark Corbett managed to make the break and took a very well earned 5th place. I rolled in with the bunch and although I may not have done anything in the way of an officially result, in my head I was ecstatic and very happy due to my achievement of making it back on to the bunch. So many times I have seen rider puncture, get service and then make it back in to the race, Its pretty rare for riders to make it back so for me to do was great and it was a fabulous experience. Of Couse I owe a lot to my Buddy in the car who showed some amazing driving skills to help back. I don't know your name but you know who you are so once again, thank you very much for an awesome ride!